Insights from our Pilot Cohort of Communities

By Stephanie Norling, Director

During last week's Learning Collaborative Discussion Session we heard presentations from each of our five communities on their community's history, the makeup of their collaborative, coalition or leadership team participating, examples of projects they've already worked on and their goals for the Learnign Colalborative experience.  I can say with absolute certainty that we have a great group of communities working together.  

Both the differences and the similarities between these communities are striking.  Four of our communities are adopting the COE Framework as part of a pre-existing collaborative or coalition. One of these, the Kanawha Caolition for Community Health Improvement (KCCHI) began 21 years ago and I know will have a lot of insights to share with our other communities about how to develop a sustainable leadership team.  With that history comes many years of accomplishments.  Every three years since its inception, KCCHI has conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment.  I had the pleasure of attending their 7th Assessment in March 2017.  Their strategic planning process and the extent to which they reached out to residents to capture their voice, analyzed regional data and engaged community members in the decision making process for their priorities was exceptional, and I think will serve as a role model to other communities as they develop their community strategic plan.

In Northwest Missouri, the cities of Brookfield and Marceline have come together to jointly adopt the COE Framework.  This collaboration between these two cities reflects their broader recognition that, in rural America in particular, it is vital to both think regionally and act locally.  They shared some powerful stories about working together:  From turning a high school football rivavlry into an opportunity for collaboration to their partnership to build a regional airport.  The strategic focus in this region is on economic vitality.  Becky Cleveland shared some striking data about population decline in their communities and the broader Northwest Missouri region.  Their story and their journey is an important one and reflects many of the struggles that rural communities across our country are encountering.  

Our second community in Northwest Missouri, Maryville is the only community in our first cohort that is building a community leadership team as part of their journey.  i am excited to work with them, as this represents a great opportunity to initiate their journey using the Communities of Excellence Core Values as their foundation and to work with both formal community leaders and grassroots leaders from the start.  As Josh McKim pointed out, Maryville has a long tradition of quality and performance improvement.  There are many organizations within Maryville that have adopted Baldrige, and their involvement holds the potential to be a strong driver in their community's success.

West Kendall, Florida is the newest addition to our group.  A few weeks ago Lowell Kruse and I attended the West Kendall Baptist Hospital (their backbone organization) Leadership Symposium.  The enthusiasm and commitment to bettering their community was evident from the start.  The Healthy West Kendall Coalition is made up of a diverse group of organizations, including many local business partners.  Their work added a new element to my thinking about "Residents and Other Customers".  In addition to capturing the Voice of the Customer (the residents), there also exists the Voice of the Cutomer's Customers; something that will add huge value to their community journey.  I am also eager to learn more about their Innovation Workgroup.  This is the first time I'd heard of a formal focus on innovation within a community, and sometihng I look forward to following.

Finally, we heard from San Diego County's South Region team.  This is the group that I've worked with from day one of Communities of Excellence 2026.  The region's formal collaborative leadership team began in 2005 from the Chula Vista Healthy Eating Active Living Coalition with the goal of reduing childhood obesity.  Today, the Live Well San Diego South Region Leadership team is composed of 30 partner organizations, over 150 collaborators and is open to residents.  This region serves as a great role model for collaboration and unity, and their commitment to COE 2026 is exciting.  They are leading the way in terms of developing the first Community Profile and putting together a shared Community Strategic Plan using Baldrige and Communities of Excellence principles.  

Again, I am thrilled to be working with this group of communities and i hope you will continue to follow their progress over the next few months.  In September of 2017, they will be joined by up to seven additional communities as we launch our full yearlong National Learning Collaborative.  You can learn more about the Learning Collaborative and how to join here and more about our five communities here.


4 thoughts on “Insights from our Pilot Cohort of Communities

  1. Lowell kruse

    Stephanie’s description of the recent conversation among our 5 Pilot communities really captures the learning and power of community improvement that comes from passionate, committed people simply telling each other their stories. The creativity and innovation described by each of the communities gave us the reassurance that solutions to our really complex community issues are “out there” in communities throughout the country. We need to make sure they have the vehicle that enables them to continue telling each other their stories, learning from one another and building a knowledge base of best practices for everyone to learn from on their Performance Excellence journey.
    Lowell Kruse

  2. Brian Lassiter

    This is exactly the intent of Communities of Excellence 2026 — sharing/learning best practices that drive outcomes across a diverse set of communities! I very much look forward to following this first cohort throughout the summer/fall, and I encourage other communities to consider joining the collaborative! I’m confident that the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework will facilitate community problem solving and will accelerate community improvement.


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